“It’s all on you now.”
Those five words were the only things going through Jaden Tate’s head as she stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning down 6-4 to Big East rival Villanova. With two runners on and two outs, Tate, a sophomore, showed poise beyond her years to crank a three-run blast and help the Pirates walk off with their first win in Big East play, 7-6, on March 24.
“Honestly, I literally just forgot about everything and I was like, if it’s a good pitch, put a good swing on it,” Tate said. “It really wasn’t that good of a pitch either. It was low and inside and I actually couldn’t believe I hit it over.”
Careful not to miss any bases while jogging out her first career home run, Tate was greeted by a strong high-five from head coach Paige Smith before getting mobbed by her teammates at the plate.
“That game was crazy. We had the lead the majority of the game and to lose it late it shows a lot about our team that we never give up,” Smith said. “It was a great moment for the whole team.”
“I’m not going to lie, I blacked out. I didn’t even notice [my teammates’] faces until we got the photos back and I was like ‘Oh these are so cute,’” Tate said.
For Tate, the home run was a result of the hard work she put in during the offseason to improve upon her freshman campaign.
“Over the summer I got stronger and I hit a lot more,” Tate said. “I was like, ‘This year is going to be a lot different because last year I didn’t show everything I could do and this year I’m getting back into my rhythm and the freshman jitters are definitely out.”
The Las Vegas native got a chance to return home at the beginning of the season when the team traveled to her home for the Marucci Desert Classic.
“I was happy that I went back there,” Tate said. “I was more excited for my little cousins and my family to finally get to see my sister and me play.”
“We try to do as many homecoming trips as we can,” Smith said.
“Sometimes where the girls are from it makes it impossible.”
The Tate family even hosted Seton Hall softball one night during the tournament.
“Her family is such a huge part of who she and her sister are and the fact that they were able to host the entire team, that was just such an amazing night. Just the amount of food that they had and we had some alums show up so it was really cool,” Smith said.
Tate even takes the family aspect one step further. She has the unique opportunity of getting to play with her sister, Kiana.
“We’ve been together our entire life. That is my right hand man. We are a complete package deal,” Tate said. “This is what we worked our entire lives to do.”
Playing together is something that was a desire the Tate sisters made very clear during their recruiting process.
“They are incredibly connected and I do think that is one of the reasons [Jaden has] settled down this year,” Smith said.
An improved player at the plate and a versatile fielder, Tate is ready to help her team win in almost any role.
“I think it shows that I’m willing to do anything to help the team out. I’m comfortable really anywhere,” Tate said. “Just don’t throw me in to pitch. Anything but pitching I would be comfortable doing.”
Nick Santoriello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NickSantoriello.